Best hotels near Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route! https://youtu.be/btzJaEYRTvkh

Here are some hotels that are very close to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade route. Macy’s runs the entire block between Broadway and 7th Avenue East-West, and between 34th and 35th streets North-South.

There’s a Residence Inn at 6th Avenue and 39th street. Some rooms appear to overlook the route.

Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Times Square
(212) 768-0007
https://maps.app.goo.gl/XycuyraG6u44PPkRA

The Martinique is on 32nd and Broadway and might, just might, have rooms overlooking Herald Square. Ask them directly. 212-736-3800. https://www.themartinique.com/

I was going to suggest the Hotel Metro on 36th, but it seems to have closed and been replaced by the Kixby, a 4-star hotel. The beauty of staying there is that the parade route is right at the end of the block. The block should be closed to car traffic and you can walk or stand in the street. Kixby hotel
(800) 356-3870
https://maps.app.goo.gl/tJEVNUbKse8x3YDF6

Marriott Vacation Club Pulse is on 37th between 5th and 6th avenues. Again, 6th Avenue is the parade route so 5th Avenue to 6th Avenue will probably be closed, offering you the chance to walk in the street or to watch the parade from the street. Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Times Square
(212) 768-0007
https://maps.app.goo.gl/XycuyraG6u44PPkRA

The Bryant Park Hotel on West 40th between 5th and 6th is an expensive boutique hotel. But again, the street should be closed to traffic and you could just walk to the end of the block to watch the parade go by.
http://www.bryantparkhotel.com

Don’t worry about being in front of the crowd. Most floats and balloons are at least 20′ high, 6 m or so. That gives you the ability to see over everyone’s head! The last float in the parade is always Santa Claus. Here he comes, 20′ above the ground in his sleigh! https://www.dropbox.com/s/j68tbr79lmuzzhy/20191128_113119.mp4?dl=0

Isle Of New York Tours offers an escorted Experience. Come with us to see the balloon inflation inflation the afternoon before Thanksgiving Day! https://fareharbor.com/embeds/book/isleofny/items/248788/calendar/2021/10/?back=https://www.isleofnewyorktours.com/&flow=435196

Favorite Rooftop Bars

The Knickerbocker Hotel rooftop (actually a setback) bar has a great Times Square view. 100 years ago the bartender’s name was Martini. Not gonna tell you what he invented.

For a quieter vibe, you might try the Library Hotel at 41st and Mad. Not great views, but it’s quiet and sunny.

1 Hotel in Brooklyn near Pier A has a FANTASTIC harbor view. Very impressive.

Great harbor views from 1 Hotel Brooklyn

However, when I last went up in 2020, it had been ‘discovered’ by the DUMBO set, who seemed to require very loud music. I hope that’s changed.

Personal Favorite: 50 Bowery. Music isn’t too loud. Largely young office-worker non-Asian people, though it’s in the heart of Chinatown. I like taking my Chinatown tour customers up, post-tour.

Friday at 6


Nearly a 360° view. That means perfect views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as well as Midtown, the Financial District and both rivers. Great views of Canal Street (which is more interesting than you’d think). You can see DUMBO, much of the Lower East Side and Little Italy.

Get the RIGHT train, not the CLOSEST train

The other day a tourist who hadn’t hired a guide asked me a question that could have taken them miles out of their way: “Where’s the nearest subway?”

Brooklyn measures around 13 miles north-south by 13 miles east-west. That’s 169 square miles. And that’s just Brooklyn! Imagine if I had told them where the NEAREST subway was, without knowing what the RIGHT subway is!

The gem by the Statue of Liberty

Around 7000 to 8000 people visit Battery Park at the South end of Manhattan every day, to visit the Statue Of Liberty. Only very few come to Bowling Green, just across Broadway. It’s our city’s oldest park, here since 1738.

Back in 1770 city officials decided to erect an iron fence, painted gold, around Bowling Green. And to commission and install a 2-ton statue of the the king of England at the time, George III. That statue lasted only 6 years.

The Declaration Of Independence, the document by which Americans date the beginning of our nation, was signed on July 4, 1776.

Here’s my photo of an earlier version that was voted down on July 2, because it guaranteed freedom to enslaved people. If only.

The July 4 version was brought here by horse courier over five days and nights. It was read aloud at City Hall up on Wall Street. Then a troop of Army men went down to Bowling Green and destroyed the king’s statue. Its takedown was for 2 reasons:

One, the Sons of Liberty hated the king.

Two, the statue was made of lead. Bullets are made of lead, too. That lead was later melted down into 40,088 musketballs for the Revolution.

The British Tour, from Isle Of New York Tours, stops at Bowling Green so that guests can have a moment to actually touch history. Look at this!

Here’s a similar iron fence of the same era as Bowling Green’s. It’s at the Palace of Versailles! I photographed it realizing that the Bowling Green fence must have looked very similar in 1770–1776. The thicker fenceposts are topped with royal crowns. All of this has been gilded, painted gold.

Bowling Green fence was also originally gilded. And it was originally topped with crowns of lead. See how the iron legs holding up the oil lamp are bowed outwards? That was to allow room for the crown that was once there.

On the night of July 9, 1776, all the lead crowns were cut down as well, to add into the musketball supply. Lead is a soft metal, so the revolutionaries were able to saw the crowns off, all 100 of them.

Why should YOU visit Bowling Green? For one thing, it has plenty of seats after you’ve spent 4 hours standing in the ferry, standing at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and standing in the boat again. You need to rest.

For another, you are TOTALLY surrounded with American history. Buildings to the west were major ocean liner companies before jetliners replaced them. The building on the east was the oil company that supplied all those ocean liners. The building to the South is the old Customs House named for Alexander Hamilton, and the National Museum of the American Indian is inside.

The fenceposts surrounding the park are available for you to actually feel marks of the saws that worked to take off those crowns back on July 9, 1776!

Isle Of New York fights overtures


Overtourism concerns me greatly because I’m a tourguide. I don’t want a backlash against tourists, just after coming off 16 months without work. We need work!

The professional tourist guides association GANYC, of which I’m a member, is concerned about hundreds of people at once — who don’t know each other exist — all converging on the Brooklyn Bridge or some restaurant that was in a movie, at exactly the same time! Residents of that Maui district are up in arms about the thousands of tourists who park in people’s yards, block traffic and buy all the food in roadside markets, leaving nothing for residents.

This can happen anywhere.

The below photo shows an estimated 20,000 people trying to get off the Brooklyn Bridge all at the same time. We tour guides understand that a group travels only as fast as its slowest member. We also are aware that a sudden loud noise may cause a stampede! One occurred in the summer of 2019 in Times Square. A motorcycle backfired. Hundreds of people ran in all directions at once.


If a motorcycle had backfired near this group, they could run only in one direction and people might get trampled. When tourists are hurt anywhere on Earth it’s bad for tourism anywhere on Earth.

So we have an overtourism committee that suggests walking customers over other less crowded bridges.

See the difference? Just 10 miles away is High Bridge in Upper Manhattan. It’s an easily walkable bridge with a flat grade, unlike the Brooklyn bridge which rises for about half a kilometer. Yet as you can see, only 3 or 4 people are walking it. Our job as guides is to get people off the Brooklyn bridge and onto High Bridge.

I feel bad for the people of that area of Maui, Hawaii. And the people of Venice and Amsterdam and Zagreb, all of which have been flooded by growing numbers of tourists. Understanding and respecting a native’s pride of place is crucial for tourists to behave like fellow human beings

NYC movie scenes in walking tours

Does this look familiar? Lyra Belaqua, played by Dakota Blue Richards, ran down this Manhattan block in the film The Golden Compass. The block of identical wooden houses is on my Washington Heights tour.

Same block in the movie!

This block is on my Brooklyn Bridge  & Brooklyn Heights tour. Why the studio decided to use the blue Brooklyn house as the Washington, DC home of Kay Graham, played by Meryl Streep as the former owner of The Washington Post in the film The Post, is beyond me.

Riffing off Mystery Science Theatre 3000, I call these posters ‘moviesign.’  Printed by the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television, they warn car owners to stay away on certain days so that movie or tv trucks can park there. It’s a great way to learn what movie or TV show is filmed where and when. This one was for the 4th season of the TV show Power, in 2017.  Watch my @tourguidestan Twitter for #moviesign mentions.

Movie directors love to use icons as backdrops.Washington Arch is a New York City icon. Consider every ‘famous city’ movie you’ve ever seen. Are some scenes within sight of a famous icon in that city? You bet.  Because moviegoers will remember their own experience in that spot. That’s a big selling point, so directors use the icons. Washington Square arch has been used for many films. Here is a link to a short YouTube video of mine. In 20 seconds it shows you the exact locations near the arch where scenes in four films were made: https://youtu.be/8BHhRgjVeeI

McSorley’s Old Ale House was used in an episode of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. It’s one of my favorite bars in town, for many reasons, one being
MCSORLEY’S DOESN’T BLAST LOUD MUSIC.
I take customers here when we ‘do’ the East Village, and at the end of Mrs Maisel’s Marvelous Greenwich Village. https://youtu.be/zJQtj48uKT4

At the poet’s walk, or the literary walk, in Central Park, film Scenes have been shot here since at least 1979, when Meryl Streep stood by the statue of Robert Burns and Dustin Hoffman took up the opposite spot by Walter Scott. Kramer vs. Kramer.

But that’s only the earliest Literary Walk film scene I can think of. How about some more?

Enchanted

Autumn In New York

Home Alone II: Lost In New York

Icons, baby. It’s all about the icons! And New York holds sooo many icons that it’s the perfect city to shoot in. That’s why as many as 400 movies and TV shows are shot in New York annually. Take some of my tours and stand exactly where the stars stood. Go to http://www.isleofnewyorktours.com or write the email address in this video: https://youtu.be/SKTNhcJRjwQ

We Will Keep Teaching About 9/11

In 2001, September 11 was considered the great tragedy of the modern world. And so it remained right up until 2020.
The 9/11 story has to remain a part of our curriculum, although it pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the US, and the millions worldwide, this year.


There’s a significant difference. The deaths of Covid destroyed families and ways of life, but not physical things.  September 11 destroyed the neighbourhood around the twin towers. It engendered the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The upscaling of the US military. Years of anti-Iraq propaganda which led to general anti-Muslim hysteria and bigotry.

American kids assume that the hero worship and veneration of the military that they’ve grown up with are normal. They actually are outgrowths of the buildup of popular military support in the run-up to a war that went on for years.

Towns and cities nationwide have had generations of statues and memorials for military heroes. It was not until 2020 that the heroism of healthcare workers has been recognized and applauded to at least the same degree. It’s time they, as well, are venerated with statues.

Just a few blocks away from the National September 11 Memorial is Fraunces Tavern. It was there that General Washington held a farewell dinner after the Revolution as the military was disbanded. America therefore has gone from a nation that got rid of its military after war, to one that keeps a strong military.

Kids need to have this historical context to make sense of their lives up until this point. And to go forward, soon taking their places as adults in United States culture, and changing the culture by voting at each election.

So yes, New York City tourguides will keep bringing middle- and high-school students to the memorial, and giving them all this necessary background.

MY FAVORITE PLACES

MY
FAVORITE PLACES
A customer with whom I’ve kept up over the years asked me for a list of my favourite New York City places. I want to take you up-and-down the island of Manhattan.
Where to start?
The longer my career spans, the more places I fall in love with. So I’ll begin with the place I love most to work. A quiet, beautiful place without parallel in the city. Central Park.

This is Bethesda Fountain, the centrepiece of Central Park. It’s bricking is local but the stone all comes from the province of New Brunswick. The fountain is topped by an angel sculpted by Ms. Emma Stebbins, and modeled after her lover, actress Charlotte Cuthbert.

Central Park is 4.1 kilometers North and South, by 800 meters east and west. I give these distances this way because my customer friend is from Wales. In American, it’s 2.5 miles North and South by half a mile East and West.

Here’s the Poets Walk, or Literary Walk. This is the only straight path in the park. It goes North from here. There’s Robert Burns on the left, and Walter Scott on the right. To the right rear, out of sight, is Shakespeare. The walk is surrounded by Elm trees as you can see. Unfortunately in the early 20th century, Dutch Elms were planted world wide. Wherever Dutch Elms went, they carried Dutch Elm disease to the native Elms. Here at the literary walk there are – or were – 300 American elms. They have been infected with Dutch Elm disease and a few have died. Upkeep is expensive. In the foreground by the compass rose are many hexagonal stones. These were donated by wealthy people. $10,000 buys a memorial stone. The money goes to elm maintenance.
One stone was donated, it would seem, by a Welsh person. The stone to the left of the letter W says “In memory of Q.” Who was Q?

The late Desmond Llewellyn played Q in the James Bond movies from 1966 to 1999. It’s possible that in this case the compass W represents ‘Wales,’ not ‘West.’
Up Cymru!
Here is Bethesda Arcade, where John Wick shoots people. The arcade arches are of New Brunswick sandstone. The ceiling is made of 7500 patterned tiles from the Minton Potteries of Stoke on Trent.

What happens here? Besides John Wick shooting people, it’s a popular spot for this:

In fact, the whole area around the fountain is rife with weddings and wedding photo sessions.
You should see it on a Saturday in June, when there are dueling weddings. Once I was here and there were four Weddings in sight.

The park is a product of the 19th century. Americans were very envious of Victorian England. This park was made to emulate the styles and landscaping fashions of that time. Very classic.

Manhattan is shaped vaguely like your right foot. Smells the same anyway. The Dutch colonialized the southern tip of the island in the 1620s, and slowly built northward. This means that, the farther North you go, the newer the area is. Central Park is right in the middle of the island. Another reason why it was built was that the ground is very rugged here, with mud flats, streams, rocky outcrops. They built the park too use these natural features. It’s the second most popular park in the world, according to TripAdvisor.
The park contains a little under 60 bridges, spans and arches. It’s built practically. Up above Bethesda arcade is 72nd St. Four streets were tunneled underneath.
Here’s Gapstow Bridge, in the southeastern corner of the park over the pond.

You would not believe the number of selfies taken here. About 100 meters or yards away is the Plaza Hotel. Gapstow Bridge is easily accessible by anyone entering the park. I think it’s terribly unfortunate, though, that so many step into the park, take a picture at Gapstow bridge and then leave. They have no idea the wonders in the 843 acres or roughly 330 hectares of the park. It’s like letting an ocean wave cover your feet, and saying you swam In the Atlantic.

Just beyond Bethesda fountain is the Lake. The only Venetian gondola in New York City plies that Lake. It’s named for a drink that a New York bartender invented in 1910: the Dry Martini.

Over the Lake in Central Park spans this bridge. Bow Bridge is made of a single piece of cast iron, manufactured down in the formerly industrial neighborhood known as Greenwich Village.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono bought an apartment near Central Park in 1971. He would walk to a nearby little spot in the park to write poetry. Then they would go down to the recording studio and record a song from it. He made several albums before his death by assassination in 1980. Yoko’s memorial to him is this quiet place named for the Beatles song, Strawberry Fields. The mosaic bears the name of everyone’s favorite Lennon song, Imagine. The black and white sections going outward from the word IMAGINE represent lotus petals, a Buddhist symbol of renewal.

One more small British note. These are the New York City Badassilisks (not basilisks) playing quidditch. I’ve never watched them play a whole game, so whether they fly or not is an open question.

Let’s go on.

Manhattan Island is shaped like your right foot. Smells about the same, anyway. The Dutch colonized the southern tip in the 1620s, while the Britons colonized the entire rest of the Atlantic coast of North America. The Dutch slowly moved northward in Manhattan, building as they went. From the 1620s at the South end, the North End of the island was built up by the 1950s.

This is the oldest wooden house on Manhattan island, dating from about 1795. And that’s the Brooklyn Bridge beyond it. The street here is paved with granite blocks that were picked up as ballast in Belgium by the Dutch colonial shippers. They would bring supplies to the settlers but needed more weight outbound because they were not heavily loaded. So they brought paving stones. Half of New York City is paved with these Belgian blocks. There must be a million of them.
Of course the ships went back to the Netherlands with riches in furs. The British noted that they could be making more money with one more colony on the Atlantic coast so they took it over in 1664. The Duke of York received all the taxes, which is why this place is called New York.

Knife and a fork
And a bottle and a cork
That’s the way
You spell New York

Things soured between the Crown and the colonies in the 1770s. The American Revolution took seven years. Afterward, all of the English and their sympathizers had to leave. They were given two years to settle their affairs. It was done very fairly.
The park at the southern tip of the island is Battery Park, so named because a Fort was built there in preparation for the War of 1812. It was to batter enemy ships. This little park has become sort of a military Memorial Park for the many wars that America has been in.

You’re looking through the fort’s doorway. The studs are doornails. They are beaten downward in back so they can’t fall out of the door. Thats where we get the phrase, “dead as a doornail.” They are insurance against battering rams.

Shown below Is a sculpture group of merchant Mariners whose ship was sunk by the Nazis in 1942. They called to have the submarine pick them up, but the submarine submerged, leaving them to die after its photographer took a photo on which this sculpture group is based.

That’s the Statue of Liberty about a quarter mile out in the harbor. She faces the ocean, lifting the torch. You could say she’s actually a lighthouse.
The island was known by Native Americans as big oyster island. The Dutch family Bedloe farmed it. Miss Liberty was built there in 1886. I go there so often that my wife calls her my girlfriend.
Here are some candid shots of my girlfriend.

She faces out to sea, waiting for immigrants, despite our 45th president’s hatred of them.

This ship probably bears no immigrants. She is the QE2, a real ocean liner. The photo was taken in Brooklyn just before sunset.

And now back to Manhattan.

Trinity Church was the biggest and oldest Anglican church on Manhattan island. It was first constructed in 1690 with help from a privateer named captain Kidd who lived on Wall Street. He was the first of the Wall Street pirates. It’s here that Nicholas Cage found an immense amount of gold in a movie called National Treasure. Alexander Hamilton is buried outside, as is his buddy Hercules Mulligan, and many other noteworthy early Americans, revolutionaries and statesmen.

Revolutionaries sawed a leaden British crown off the top of this fencepost at Bowling Green Park, on the very first block of Broadway. That night they also toppled a statue of King George lll, partly because they hated him and partly because it was made of lead. They needed the lead for musket balls and cannonballs. The date was July 9, 1776.
Things were patched up after the War of 1812. We became allied in World War One. 200 years to the day after the destruction of George 3rd’s statue, on July 9 1976, his descendant Queen Elizabeth II stood where this plaque now shines.

It’s right on the front steps of Trinity, where everyone can see it. We are proud that she came here.
Trinity is one of my favorite places because of my admiration for those early Americans. But it’s not just that. There are bathrooms in the back of the church, and I can sit on the park benches alongside the graveyard and eat lunch quietly. Those are good things.
It’s long been claimed that Americans are terrible spellers. It’s totally true. Look at this gravestone of a man who died in the 1660s. He’s entombed in a wall at Trinity.
Imagine how embarrassed he must immortally be, that everyone who stops by learns that he was born in ‘Oldingland.’

The financial district surrounds Trinity. Wall Street is right in front of the front door. The first block North of Wall Street, Pine St, holds a skyscraper that once was the headquarters of Citgo Oil. It’s being converted into apartments now. Built in 1930, it is lavishly decorated in stone and nickel, in the art deco style. That’s its lobby above.

At the corner of Broadway and Pine St is this impressive lobby. Currently it’s a pharmacy. Years ago this was the Bank of Tokyo.
Computerization led to the diminishment of the amount of space needed to store paper, and the number of people to work with all that paper. 70 Pine St once was an office building. Now it’s apartments. The same is true of this building. Once Upon a time it was a big banking firm, but now it’s apartments. Many big shot financial firms of the late 19th and 20th century have closed their doors. And now people walk through those doors to their apartments.

The East River separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. You’re not supposed to catch fish in the East River because decades ago polluters dumped tons of metals and chemicals into it. But it is becoming cleaner. Check out this yardlong striped bass or ‘striper’ that someone pulled out of the River a few blocks from Wall Street.

Continuing North, let’s go to everyone’s favorite ethnic neighborhood in Manhattan, Chinatown. Trinity Church is at Wall Street. The wall was built after African slaves were freed to buy or rent land North of the Dutch city. The city’s wall was at Wall Street. For 200 years this free black community lasted, until the Irish came. After the potato famine or great hunger, my people started showing up. They came in such numbers that the Black people moved away.
Germans started coming in just a couple years after the Irish. Followed by the Italians and the East European Jews, then the Chinese. Each wave took over this neighborhood just North of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Chinese have stayed here for over 100 years, although things are changing now with West Africans and Bangladeshis coming in to operate stores. They may settle here as the Chinese have.
I have been in love with Chinatown for decades. My first wife was Chinese American. Her mother was brought up here and her father was a ‘fixer’ for some of Chinatown’s professional gamblers, meaning he found them locations where the police were unlikely to bother them.
My wife clued me in that I was a ‘low-fon’ or white person in Cantonese. No matter. I love to just hang out here, although practical matters often take precedence.

Chinatown has wonderful little hole in the wall restaurants where you can fill up on dim sum cheaply.

There are also some extraordinary shops. My favorite one has Japanese cosmetics on the upper floor, a Chinese grocery store on the 1st floor and an awesome display of lacquerware and ceramics, as well as Asian cooking supplies, in the basement. It’s not easy to get a rice cooker in this country, but the store has various different brands. Along with Szechuan hotpots, and beautifully decorated Japanese and South Korean bowls, plates and saucers, often hand decorated.
I’ve been getting my haircut here For 30 or 40 years. The cheapest Barber shops in town are also some of the best. Why don’t more people come to Chinatown for $9 haircuts?
Last year I was getting my hair cut and I met two Tibetans in the barbershop. Turned out they lived miles away in Queens, but loved coming here for the cheap haircuts and dimsum, just like me. Good thing I’m a tour guide. I can say hello in Tibetan!

Wing On Wo Is the oldest, longest operating shop in Chinatown. It’s on the main drag, Mott St.
Just down Mott from Wing On Wo is Wo Hop. EVERYBODY who has gone out dancing In Manhattan on Saturday nights for three decades knows about Wo Hop. It’s a 24 hour restaurant. The dance clubs close at 4:00 AM. This place is open and receives a generous helping of sweaty, dressed up young people who come here for breakfast at 4:30 Sunday mornings.

My wife has the T shirt!

Every weekday afternoon at 2:30 the kids get out of school and form a long line to get into Chinatown ice cream Factory. They make their own ice cream in the basement in exotic flavors like lychee, sesame seed, black tea and others. You can also get chocolate and vanilla. Rupert Grint would love this place.

This year is 2020. The dim sum restaurant in the photo above dates from 1920. It’s been in the same family for 100 years. The man who runs it now is grandnephew of the original owner. He is a good marketer. He is New York savvy. He has gotten the restaurant into movies such as The Other Woman, Premium Rush and one of the Spiderman movies. Notice all the white people waiting for their turn to get in. They’re here because it’s famous. I’m here because my barber is here.
I don’t eat at this Restaurant. I’ve been unemployed all year because of Covid. The food is just as good as any other place in Chinatown, but they charge double for it because they can get away with it, because they’re famous. That’s why there aren’t any Chinese people waiting to get in. Everyone In the neighborhood knows better.
I’m fairly well informed for a low-fon.

Note far from China town is the lower East Side. A 100 years ago this was the most crowded place in the world, all immigrants. At that time apartments often had no plumbing. This Public toilet building engendered the comparative phrase, “it’s built like a brick shithouse.”

GREENWICH VILLAGE

Residents of New York and Connecticut are apparently the only Americans who can pronounce the name of this place correctly. Connecticut because there is a Greenwich CT.
Everyone who lives there calls it ‘the village.’ It’s a quirky part of town. There is a street grid that corresponds to the Hudson River nearby. Another one corresponds to the rest of Manhattan. And there’s a third that grew outward from a hub in the center of the West village. This makes for difficulty trying to figure out where you are at any time. For instance, West 4th St starts out going East West but turns to the North and, at its northern extremity, it is a North South street. You can stand at the corner of W 4th and W 10th.
Remember those Belgian paving stones? Many streets in the village are still paved with them, giving a very old-fashioned heir to the neighborhood. That goes with the houses that date from the 1820s too early 1900s. Most of them are brick, but there are a few old wooden houses.
Here is the oldest pharmacy in the United States. It saved the lives, literally, of many Village residents on a November night in 1964. That night there was a major power blackout. All the pharmacies but this one shuttered.

Bigelow’s happened to have gas lights that still worked, and a hand cranked antique cash register. So they alone stayed open all night. They supplied prescription drugs to many people who couldn’t get along without them, the night of the big blackout.

The photo above technically is outside Greenwich Village. It’s one block North of the northern edge, 14th St. This is the holiest of holy places in the world. The letters NBC do not refer to the broadcasting network up in midtown. They refer to the National Biscuit Company, which built this building around 1910. It was here in this beatific location of glorious majesty, in 1914, that they made the first Oreo cookies. If there’s any place more sacred in this world I want to know about it. Oreo cookies have to be New York City’s greatest invention.
After the transistor.
And the elevator.
By the way, the elevator was invented here. So stop calling it a lift. This is New York, my friend. Use big words.

MIDTOWN

Midtown is the central business district. More than 100 skyscrapers, some of the very distinctive and made and designed by big name architects, dot the blocks. The bigger the building, the more people can work in it. Some of these places are so huge they have to have restaurants on the first floors because otherwise their workers can’t sit down to have lunch. There are just too many people. Food trucks line the side streets offering Ethiopian, Indian, Arab, Ukrainian food, pizza, you name it.

Rockefeller Center is a complex of 18 buildings, one of which is about 70 storeys tall. Roughly 30,000 people work in this one complex that’s one block wide by three blocks long. In the basement you can find a burger place, a Starbucks, three chocolate shops and a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop, a pharmacy, a shoe shine, and a few other places to eat.

This photo has the tall one in back. It was originally owned by RCA, then GE, then NBC, then Comcast and now I think it’s Universal. Rockefeller Center buildings fronting on 5th Ave are named for countries. Of the two that you can see, the left one is la Maison Francaise. The right one is the British Empire building. Remember, this Complex was made in the 1930s when there was an empire.
Way in the background is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. What are all these people photographing?
This:

The Christmas light show on the exterior of Saks 5th Avenue. It’s really quite impressive.

This one also shows the Comcast building but it’s taken later in winter, after the tree has been taken away. You can see the ice skating rink. It’s about 25 feet Below the street level. The Golden statue is Prometheus. He’s shown flying down from heaven bearing the gift of fire that he has stolen for humanity. However up behind him is an angry Zeus with lightning bolts coming out of his fingertips. He sees Prometheus. The fire God is going to be in trouble when he gets home.

And here’s one more iconic Rockefeller Center photo. I didn’t take this one. It was made As 30 Rock was being constructed. These men were bribed with doughnuts, to sit on a girder and pose for the camera.

A few blocks away is Grand Central Terminal. I’m sure you seen this view before:

But how about this one? This ticket window was in the film North by Northwest, by Hitchcock. Cary Grant stops here to buy a train ticket.

And how about the exterior? The terminal opened in 1913, when flowery expressions of stone or concrete were still in vogue. Above the Tiffany glass clock, representing speed, is Mercury. To his left, manning a pump, is Hercules representing strength. The woman touching a finger to her temple is Minerva, goddess of wisdom. What this frieze is saying is that it takes speed, strength and wisdom to operate a huge railroad network.

Developers started designing buildings in the 1840s around 42nd street where Broadway crossed 7th Ave. The area was called Longacre Square. It was one of the best places in Manhattan to buy a horse. Lots of stables, lots of auctioners. Horse rental, carriage rental, sleigh rental for winter, etc.
Longacre Square was given a new title in 1904 after the New York Times newspaper built its headquarters skyscraper there. It was now to be Times Square. Dozens of theaters came to the square, on its side streets. Now every night, when there’s no Covid, roughly 50,000 people go to the theater.

SUBWAY TRAINS
Although I wouldn’t call them my favorite things to do in New York, I spend a lot of time on the trains. The network of trains runs more than 700 miles, occasionally over but mostly under the streets of New York.
As a guide, I need to learn as much as possible about every interesting thing in the city. The trains are very interesting to many people. There are artworks in some of the stations. Where there is no artwork there is at least beautiful décor.

Not all the trains are below ground. The number one is above ground in northern Manhattan, where I live.

Hudson River Greenway
I’ve fallen in love with this last section of Manhattan only this year as I discovered it. I haven’t been able to ride a bike for quite some time, but my wife got me an electric bike which allows me to explore the city once again.
The Hudson River Greenway runs the length of Manhattan’s 13 miles. It’s a collection of parks with the bike path running through them all, from Battery Park all the way up to Dyckman Street, which is also called 200th St. I live nearby.
The Greenway has only been open for about 10 years. Parts of it have been open for decades but it’s only been complete for 10 years.
Let’s have a look.

Amazing, right?
That bridge is the George Washington bridge, between New York City and Fort Lee NJ. There are 300-foot cliffs on the far side, known as The New Jersey Palisades.

A selfie of me and several tour guide friends on the George Washington bridge. I’m wearing the helmet. The views of and from the bridge also are great.

And this leads you finally to my neighborhood, where there’s a clifftop park named after the last British Governor General of the province of New York. It’s Fort Tryon Park, once a 60-acre private estate.
The previous owner built an immense gate house to impress people. Now the gatehouse is part of the park. The park runs from the River up about 27 stories to gorgeous clifftop views.

END

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point originally was just a clifftop overlooking the Hudson in Northern Manhattan, at roughly 190th Street. It was right alongside the northern extension of Riverside Drive. A Greek temple was built at Inspiration Point in 1925. The temple was upstairs at the clifftop.  Below were restrooms.
Inspiration Point is mentioned in the last verse of the song I’ll Take Manhattan. Miss Ella Fitzgerald:


The northern extension of Riverside Drive was replaced by the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1937, cutting off Inspiration Point from almost all visitors.
The Hudson River Greenway, a riverfront park with a bike lane running from Battery Park to Dyckman Street, opened fully in 2010. Once again, people are able to stop at Inspiration Point, but only on foot or by bike. No train, car or bus comes here.
Hope you enjoy my singing!
https://youtu.be/bcu-0r6AuAQ

COVID Time: Preparing For Tourism’s Return

“It is a dark time for The Alliance.” — Star Wars

My first tour this year was the morning of January 2. A Brooklyn Bridge/Brooklyn Heights tour.  The company that hired me asked me to repeat this one until January 6. So January 6 was the end of my 2019 season.

Today is Juneteenth, and the 2020 season hasn’t started yet. Travel to and from most of the world is still banned. Unemployment was at an all time high in May.

What have the world’s tourguides been doing? Planning.

There are many tourism and travel groups now, exchanging info. Scheduling webinars. Teaching and learning new skills. Professional Development Programs.

The future of tourism may soon be quite different.  Professional guide associations now are planning to make demands of the big tour companies. We guides have always been somewhat at the mercy of companies. The numbers of pax per group has slowly risen.

But, for our own safety and the safety of the pax, now we must work with smaller groups, spread farther apart. This means, if a school trip sends 100 students to Philly, DC or NYC on two 50-pax buses, there will no longer be just one guide snaking 50 students through the narrow lanes of old historic districts.

The consensus is heading toward limiting group sizes to 10, including the guide. A group of 50 must, in order to hear the guide, crowd together.  And that’s no longer safe. Groups of ten allow everyone to make some social distance.

Groups of ten are great for several other reasons:

The guide need not wear out their voice screaming to be heard in the back, or have their loudspeaker turned up to ’10’ in a quiet neighborhood.

It’s far easier for the guide to get 10 people safely into and out of the Subway, than 50.

10 people can walk on a meter-wide sidewalk much more efficiently than 50. (Walking tours move at the speed of the slowest person.)

Most importantly, every member of a small group feels they’re getting a better experience! The bigger a group gets, the more some pax feel ‘lost in the crowd.’ We want the experience to be safe, memorable and easy for both customer and guide.

Hiring more guides per group will cost tour companies more. It remains to be seen how they will deal with this change. Perhaps we can all work together, to make a safer, happier tourism industry.